A 35-hour working week?

My contribution here, courtesy of TwelveStars.

Inequality against Freedom project

In June 2018 I was awarded a Vidi grant by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The project, entitled “Inequality against Freedom: Economic Power, Markets and Workplace”, will study the relationship between economic inequality, individual freedom, and the labour market.

A preliminary project description can be found here.

Open positions, including PhD fellowships, will be advertised in 2019.

Call for papers: The political philosophy of Rosa Luxemburg

Call for Papers

The political philosophy of Rosa Luxemburg
A critical assessment

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 10th-11th of January 2019

Conference organizers: Christian Neuhäuser (TU Dortmund University), Gabriel Wollner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Lea Ypi (London School of Economics), Nicholas Vrousalis (Universiteit Leiden), Robin Celikates (Universiteit van Amsterdam).

Rosa Luxemburg is well known for her political activism in the revolutionary movements in Poland, Russia and Germany, and as a leading Marxist member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. She is also well known for her economic work on capital accumulation. But although she formulated important arguments in political economy, the theory of revolution, and council democracy her contributions to political philosophy are less than fully appreciated in the contemporary academic community. Marking the hundredth anniversary of Luxemburg’s murder in January 1919, this conference turns towards her political philosophy and discusses her philosophical arguments at the intersection with more strategic, historical, and sociological considerations. We invite paper proposals for papers on, but not limited to, the following topics:

1. Socialist liberty: More strongly than other contemporary socialists, Luxemburg emphasizes the importance of freedom of thought and speech. Arguably she defends a position one could call liberal socialism. How would such a Luxemburgian liberal socialism look like and how defensible is it?

2. The poverty of reformism: Luxemburg opposes the idea that socialism can be achieved by gradual reforms. What are her reasons for opposing reformism? What currency do those reasons have in contemporary capitalist societies?

3. The future of revolution: According to Luxemburg revolution is not an automatism. It will also not be brought forward by socialist parties acting as a vanguard. Instead the workers have to emancipate themselves, learning from their mistakes and acting in a way that combines spontaneity and organization. How does Luxemburg justify these claims? Are her considerations applicable to contemporary circumstances?

4. Council democracy: According to Luxemburg, councils provide the proper organizational form of post-revolutionary society and its politics. How does she conceptualize participation, representation and delegation within this system and how could it operate in a large and complex society? In which ways is this model still desirable and applicable today?

5. Capital accumulation and imperialism: Luxemburg thought that capital accumulation leads to growth that cannot be accommodated by domestic consumption. Instead new markets need to be opened up by imperialistic force and colonial rule. Is this a convincing description of what happened and maybe is happening at the moment?

6. The relation between economic and political struggles: Luxemburg engages with the topic of strikes, trade union organisations and their relation to political organisation. She criticises the short-termism of trade union bureaucrats and suggests that strikes are only effective when combined with a long-term project of political emancipation. How do her arguments adapt to contemporary circumstances? Are they still plausible?

7. The relation between national and international emancipation: Luxemburg was notoriously critical of projects of ‘socialism in one country’. Her critique of social democratic parties rooted in national projects of emancipation sounds as relevant today as it did when she first elaborated it. What are the virtues and limitations of her account? What is its potential for thinking about a new International Left in the 21st century?

We invite papers discussing philosophical questions within or close to the described topics or any other area of the political theory and philosophy of Rosa Luxemburg.

Please submit an anonymized 300 – 500 word abstract suitable for blind review by July 1st to:

rosa@post.tu-dortmund.de

Revolution, State, Workers’ Control: Besançenot, Miéville, and Medhurst on October

Forthcoming in Capital & Class

The iconography of the Russian Revolution is curious business. The iconographer must evince gloom for the Revolution’s historical predecessor, Tsarism, then awe at its conditions of birth, the revolutions of 1905 and February 1917, followed by adulation for its first steps, the Council of People’s Commissars, followed by odium at its murder in the hands of Stalinism. Generations of Leninist historians have incessantly plastered this macabre altarpiece with ink, layer after layer, typically drawing inspiration from Isaac Deutscher’s revered triptych of the life of Trotsky. Three recent histories of the Revolution, all by non-professional historians, propose to dispense with these revolutionary pieties.

The first book, entitled Que faire de 1917?, is by Olivier Besançenot, the uniquely recognizable face of the French anti-capitalist Left. The second, October, is by China Miéville, a well-known science-fiction writer. And the third, No less than mystic, is by John Medhurst, writer and activist.

Full text here.

O Οκτώβρης του Miéville

The Books’ Journal, 23/1/2018

Ο Οκτώβρης του China Miéville είναι ένα συναρπαστικό χρονικό της τρίτης ρωσικής επανάστασης, δηλαδή της εξέγερσης του Οκτώβρη 1917. Αντίθετα με την πρόσφατη ιστοριογραφία της επανάστασης, η πρόζα του Miéville έχει την ίδια εκρηκτική ζωντάνια με το αντικείμενό της: ‘Το έτος 1917 ήταν ένα έπος, μια αλληλουχία από περιπέτειες, ελπίδες, προδοσίες, απίθανες συμπτώσεις, πολέμους και ίντριγκες· από γενναιότητα και ανοησία, φάρσα, τόλμη, τραγωδία· από εφήμερες φιλοδοξίες και αλλαγές, από φώτα εκτυφλωτικά και ατσάλι και σκιές· από τρένα και σιδηροτροχιές.’ (Miéville 2017α, 14) Ο Miéville πιστεύει ότι όσοι ταξίδεψαν σε αυτές τις σιδηροτροχιές είδαν μια χαραυγή, της ‘λευτεριάς το αμυδρό το φως’. Πολύ σύντομα, ωστόσο, αυτή η χαραυγή ‘γίνεται τελικά σούρουπο’ (Miéville 2017α, 495). Θα επικεντρωθώ σε τρία ζητήματα: τη σχέση του Οκτώβρη με την επανάσταση, με το σοβιετικό κράτος και με τον εργατικό έλεγχο.

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Λόγοι, Πρόσωπα, Αξίες: Κατευόδιο στον Ντέρεκ Πάρφιτ

The Books’ Journal, 1/2/2017

Ας υποθέσουμε ότι ένας Έλληνας νευροεπιστήμονας έχει φτιάξει μια μηχανή που αντιγράφει το περιεχόμενο του μυαλού σου, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των αναμνήσεών σου, σε ένα σκληρό δίσκο. Σε συνεργασία με έναν Άγγλο συνάδελφό του, ο Έλληνας νευροεπιστήμονας ανεβάζει αυτό το περιεχόμενο στον εγκέφαλο ενός ασθενή στην Αγγλία, αντικαθιστώντας εντελώς το νοητικό του περιεχόμενο με το δικό σου. Δυστυχώς, η μηχανή έχει βλάβη, και ο εγκέφαλός σου καταστρέφεται. Τι σου έχει συμβεί; Έχεις πεθάνει; Ή μήπως έχεις πάει ταξίδι στην Αγγλία; Σύμφωνα με τον Ντέρεκ Πάρφιτ, τον σημαντικότερο ηθικό φιλόσοφο της τελευταίας τριακονταετίας, έχεις πεθάνει. Γιατί; Ας υποθέσουμε ότι το upload είναι επιτυχές και φεύγεις από το χειρουργείο του Έλληνα νευροεπιστήμονα χωρίς εγκεφαλική ζημιά. Ο Άγγλος doppelganger σου ήδη σε κουβαλάει μέσα στο κεφάλι του. Λίγες ώρες αργότερα, ο νευροεπιστήμονας σου λέει ότι μια βλάβη στη διαδικασία του upload θα προκαλέσει τον θάνατό σου σε δυο μέρες. Ποιος θα πεθάνει σε δυο μέρες; Εσύ. Αλλά αν είσαι εσύ που θα πεθάνεις σε δυο μέρες, τότε είσαι πάλι εσύ που πέθανες όταν καταστράφηκε ο εγκέφαλός σου στο αρχικό παράδειγμα. Άρα η μηχανή δεν είναι καινούριο είδος ταξιδιωτικού πράκτορα: δεν σε πάει στην Αγγλία. Σε σκοτώνει.

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Economic Democracy Workshop

Call for abstracts — Deadline March 10, 2017

Rethinking Economic Democracy

Workshop at Leiden University, part of the Dutch Political Association Meeting, June 1-2, 2017

Conveners: Nicholas Vrousalis (Leiden) and Gabriel Wollner (Humboldt)

Description: One remedy against mounting economic inequality consists in democratizing economic institutions. Such democratization may range from giving workers control rights over their places of work, to control rights over firm-specific means of production, to ownership rights over the means of production as a whole.

This workshop will bring together philosophers, economists, and political theorists, with the aim of rejuvenating the debate on economic democracy. We welcome abstracts on topics falling under this theme, broadly construed. Here is an indicative, non-exhaustive list of possible topics:

§ Workplace democracy
§ Workplace republicanism and constitutionalism
§ Representation and the workplace
§ Workers’ councils
§ Council communism
§ Market socialism
§ Public ownership
§ Work and the welfare state
§ Property-owning democracy
§ Trade unions

Abstract submission: Please submit an abstract (max. 500 words) to: economicdemocracyleiden[at]gmail.com by March 10, 2017.

Submission: March 10, 2017
Notification: March 31, 2017
Workshop: June 1-2, 2017

Information about conference fees and accommodation will be posted here.

Podcast on Cohen book

The New Books Network now has an podcast discussing my book, here.

Syriza crash lands against the euro

Open Democracy, 4/7/15

A man goes to the tailor to pick up a custom-made suit. He puts it on, and notices that the sleeves are too long. When he complains, the tailor says: ‘just bend your arms a little’. ‘But the collar is too low!’ ‘Just raise your back a little’ says the tailor. ‘But the trousers are too long!’ ‘Just stand on your toes’ says the tailor. The man goes out into the street and can barely walk in his new suit. Everyone says: ‘poor guy’. ‘Yes, but great suit!’.

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“Μένουμε Ευρώπη” ή, αλλιώς, ευρωφανατισμός

Protagon, 28/06/2015

Σε πρόσφατο άρθρο του, ο Αριστείδης Χατζής υποστηρίζει ότι η Ελλάδα βρίσκεται στα πρόθυρα ενός εθνικού διχασμού, όπου ‘οι πάντες… δεν αντιμετωπίζουν πλέον τους αντιπάλους ως πεπλανημένους, ανόητους ή αδαείς. Αλλά ως εχθρούς.’ Ανάμεσα σε αυτούς που πάσχουν από αυτή την ιδιότυπη μορφή ιδεολογικής παράνοιας, γράφει, συγκαταλέγονται και μονάδες από τον ‘ευρωπαϊκό, εκσυγχρονιστικό χώρο, τον κατεξοχήν φορέα των ιδεών του Διαφωτισμού, κυρίως της ανοχής.’ Και καταλήγει εκφράζοντας την επιθυμία του να ‘παραμείνει η χώρα [τ]ου στην Ευρωζώνη, στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση αλλά κυρίως… να συνεχίσει να συμμετέχει στην ευρωπαϊκή παράδοση του Διαφωτισμού, του ορθού λόγου, της ελευθερίας, της δημοκρατίας και κυρίως της ανοχής.’

Δυστυχώς το άρθρο του κου Χατζή εκφράζει μια ιδεολογική παθογένεια παρόμοια με αυτή που κατακρίνει.

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